IFT FIRST: From botanicals & florals to amped up hot sauce to nostalgic comebacks – which pandemic trends have staying power?

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/ karma_pema
Source: Getty/ karma_pema

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The emotional and physical toll taken by the pandemic has reshaped Americans’ palates – pushing them to try more adventurous flavor profiles, including more floral and earthy botanicals that were once niche in the US, embrace yuzu and step-up their heat tolerance, according to data presented this week at IFT’s virtual annual meeting & Expo (IFT FIRST).

At the same time, many Americans turned inwards – searching for familiar and comforting flavors that prompted brands to bring back old favorites and combine nostalgic and modern flavors in unique mash-ups, according to trend-spotters at the Institute of Food Technologists’ Food Technology magazine.

While not all the trends that emerged during the pandemic will have lasting power, IFT leaders predict these will:

Bold botanicals and delicate florals​ – During the pandemic many consumers embraced botanicals prized for traditional ayurvedic health benefits, such as turmeric and elderberry – inspiring brands to incorporate these ingredients in new ways.

For example, turmeric which was gaining momentum even before the pandemic, appeared in products ranging from breakfast cereal, such as Nature’s Path Golden Turmeric Superfood Oatmeal cups, to beverages, like Starbucks’ Coffee with Golden Turmeric and Bigelow’s Matcha Green Tea with Turmeric, to center of the plate options, like Ronzoni’s turmeric pasta.

Consumers also embraced lighter floral flavors – branching away from old standbys like rose, to include violet and an increasingly popular cherry blossom. The later appeared in Steve’s Chocolate Cherry Blossom ice cream, AB InBev’s Hoegaarden brand and paired with matcha for a seasonal Pocky.

Elderberry also shot to the top during the pandemic for its perceived health benefits.

While not a botanical, the bright, citrusy flavor of yuzu also gained traction during the pandemic, appearing in beverages alongside more familiar fruits, like pear, and Unilever’s Knorr line of Professional Intense flavors. As in both of these examples, the fruit is often paired with complementary flavors and ingredients because it doesn’t have much juice – making it a more premium ingredient.

Hot and spicy – ​Another emerging trend that was turbo-charged by the pandemic and which will likely stick around post-recovery is demand for hot sauces, which is predicted to nearly double to $4.4bn by 2028, according to Fortune Business Insights​.

The increased interest in hot sauce can be attributed in part to consumers stuck at home during the pandemic trying to recreate restaurant style dishes.

But the trend isn’t limited to the condiment aisle, according to data presented at IFT. Pringles recently debuted a line of Scorchin’ snacks and Hormel Foods offered a limited edition Ghost Reaper Chili.

Comfort and nostalgia – ​With so much uncertainty during the pandemic, consumers also turned to the familiar – including favorites flavors and products from childhood, inspiring some brands to bring back once popular but retired products.

For example, General Mills relaunched several of its iconic cereals with their original recipes, including Trix, Coco Puffs, Golden Grahams and Cookie Crisp. Good Humor also brought back its popular Vienneta Cake that combines wavy layers of ice cream and crisp cookie layers.

Consumer desire for comfort also prompted a series of “mash-ups” that combined beloved foods and flavors in unexpected ways, such as the launch of Carnation Breakfast Essentials Kellogg’s flavored Nutritional drinks flavored like Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and other sugary cereals. Smartfood and Krispy Kreme also teamed to a launch a limited edition original glazed doughnut flavored ready-to-eat popcorn.

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